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Why and How to Develop Listening Skills in Your Child.
We all know people who can hear perfectly and yet are terrible listeners.
Hearing is typically present from birth. It’s simply a physical act of receiving sound stimulation and sending it to the brain for reception. On the other hand, listening is a skill that develops over time. It requires lots practise for a child to learn how to tune into a sound, recognize its importance, make sense of it and then keep it in mind to work with it.
Parents usually confuse listening with hearing.
In spite of the obvious difference between listening and hearing in everyday life, most parents don’t easily grasp the difference between “listening skills” and “hearing ability” in their own child. In fact, it is the rare parent who gives a second thought to developing their child’s listening skills after establishing that he or she can hear. As a result, more than 50% of today’s children have underdeveloped listening skills. (Click here for South African research findings.)
The good news is: playing listening games with a child can literally change his life.
Children with listening issues are often misunderstood.
These children zone out. They are restless. They have difficulty focusing, paying attention and completing assignments. People around them typically assume that they either have a bad attitude or a problem with ADHD.
In reality, they feel lost and frustrated because they struggle to process what they hear, and so miss out on most of what is said in class.
And, even when they try their very best, they simply cannot remember the detail of what parents and teachers tell him to do. What’s more, since they have no way of imagining why it seems so easy for other children to do what is impossible in their world, they feel hopelessly flawed.
Learning to read draws on listening skills.
Many children with listening issues are mistakenly labelled as “unintelligent” or even “dyslexic” because they have a hard time recognising sound patterns in words. Just imagine trying to associate the letters of the alphabet with a cacophony of muffled speech sounds. It must be very frustrating.
Bad listeners are unpopular.
Bad listeners often embarrass themselves in social situations when they misinterpret and forget what other children have said. And, who wants to play with a child who never seems to respect the rules of the game, seems to ignore other children’s ideas and often responds inappropriately?
Practical advice on teaching listening skills.
- Make use of your Practica Program. You’ll find no less than 63 games for under 2’s under the heading, “Listening Skills” in your Parents’ Guide. And there are 96 more for older children, under the heading, “Auditory Perception”.
- Don’t underestimate the value of games that might seem simple. Even when the supporting research isn’t mentioned at a specific game, you can rest assured that a great deal of research went into every Practica activity.
- Spending one-on-one time is more important here than ever. Why? Because, when lots of children are given an instruction in a group setup, it’s too easy for a child to lay back and simply copy what others do. On the other hand, being the only child in the room spurs him on to listen and think for himself.
- Every Practica game that involves telling a child what to do is a listening activity in disguise. Whilst we are very supportive of free play and role play, most of our games can be classified as “instructional play”. That means that Practica games typically involve discussing plans and remembering instructions. What better way is there to practise listening skills?
- Cherish your Practica xylophone. We import our xylophones to make sure that they aren’t out of tune. Turn yours over and you will notice drill marks on the metal keys. That’s where they were calibrated. All of this is important since a baby develops his auditory frame of reference during the first years and the musical notes that he listens to regularly during that time will forever sound right to him.
The rewards will be far-reaching.
The most difficult thing about developing listening skills in one’s child is also the best thing; it involves connection and commitment. It doesn’t happen overnight.
But, the rewards are many. You’re not only laying one of the most important foundations for learning here. You’re also shaping your child’s character. Being able to listen, absorb and then act on that is one of the most important keys to success in life and relationships. You are giving a gift to your child that is truly priceless.